False Alarm

It seems that can our government kicked down the road back on January 1 is upon us in the form of the looming March 1 “sequestration” cliff. One can both admire and be sickened by the hyperbole employed by politicians when discussing these impending “cuts”. President Obama in his 2013 State of the Union address  described them and their effects as “harsh” and “devastat(ing)” to our “priorities” as well as “jeopardizing” military readiness. Really? So a 5% cut is going to jeopardize essential government operations? That’s funny, because the governments own Congressional Budget Office report states that “If no additional appropriations are provided by then, nonessential functions of the government will have to cease operations.” The operative word there being “non-essential.” If all the things the President pointed out are truly “priorities” then there should be nothing to worry about as only non-essential items will be cut. Of course this begs the question as to why these “non-essential” things were funded in the first place. Isn’t government only supposed to do what is essential by definition? Claiming that essential programs will be devastated by a 5% cut is to claim that the government lacks the common sense of any citizen. If your ability to spend is reduced do you immediately cut back on your food budget in order to keep paying your cable bill? No, you prioritize. Those things valued most highly are paid for first, those things valued least are paid last or cut. It’s the same ruse they used during the debt-ceiling crisis in 2011 that precipitated this whole mess. At that time they suggested grandma wouldn’t get her social security check. Yes, that’s right, let’s pick the thing everyone values the most and claim it will be the first thing to be cut. That makes so much sense. I mean, how stupid do they think we are? (Don’t answer that.)

But I have to hand it to Obama, somehow he deftly managed to imply that everyone’s oft paraded and favored government employees (teachers, police, and firefighters) would be laid off if sequestration takes place. It’s really more of an assertion as it has no basis in fact whatsoever. They are funded at the local level and would not be in any way affected by sequestration. This is just another scare tactic that the dishonest use to mislead the uninformed.

So, if a 5% cut is devastating then I don’t know how this country survived a mere 10 years ago when the federal budget was about 50% smaller than it is today! Even adjusting for the ratio of budget to GDP, the Clinton years should have been a time of societal and defensive collapse with a mere 18% federal budget burden to GDP. Today it is over 22% and cuts that might bring it to 23% are impugned as bringing about the end of civilization as we know it. Wait, 23% is not down from 22% is it? Read on.

Federal outlays are projected to be $47 trillion from 2014-2023 and these cuts amount to removing $1.2 trillion from that total or a 2% decline in overall federal spending. But even this is not a true decrease. Even if the 2014 projected budget were frozen for 10 years the total outlay would be $36.2 trillion. So even with these “cuts” total federal outlays will increase by 27% which is still an increase from 22% to 23% of GDP. Repeat after me. There are no cuts. There are no cuts. There are no cuts.

Obama and his ilk are simply trying to sell us the government diet. That’s the diet where you gain 10 pounds but claim you lost 5 lbs because you “projected” you were going to gain 15 lbs.